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Ivanhoe Girls’ offers a unique approach to careers counselling for Senior School students. It is an approach that has been developed in conjunction with the Learning and Teaching teams and aligned with the Pastoral Care framework. This holistic approach gives students every opportunity to pursue their goals for their future. 

Sally Gilder, Head of Careers
Individual Focus

The careers counselling process begins in Year 8 with a unique approach to subject selection. “Every student from Year 8 to Year 11 has a private interview with a senior staff member, and that interview is tracked in a database, along with their grades,” explains Mrs Jan Leather, Director of Learning and Teaching.

What are you interested in? What do you think you want to be? What have been your favourite subjects this year? What subjects do you want to study next year? These are just some of the questions posed to students in these interviews, explains Mrs Leather. “So if they are interested in science as they grow up, by Year 10 we’d always check that the prerequisites are covered.”

Learning and Teaching

The Learning and Teaching team is an essential part of the career guidance journey at Ivanhoe Girls’, and casual conversations about careers and study opportunities are frequently embedded into classroom discussions. “When they are teaching a particular subject, teachers will link that in with a career or study opportunity,” explains Mrs Sally Gilder, Head of Careers. While that happens particularly in VCE subjects, it even happens at the Junior School level, suggests Mrs Gilder. “Teachers are always talking about different types of jobs,” she says.

Careers Night

While specialists from a variety of fields are engaged to speak to students throughout the year, the annual Careers Night offers students an interactive experience where they can meet and talk to people from a wide variety of workplaces, University faculties and careers. The program is designed to change from year to year. “I try and gauge interest for particular areas for students,” explains Mrs Gilder. “Often a student will tell me that she’s really interested in a particular field, so I can try to get a speaker or an information stall on the topic.”

Quickly following on the heels of the Careers Night, the Subject Selection Expo is an interactive display of each VCE subject, held in the School Gymnasium. The students can collect information about different subjects, while teachers are on hand to answer any questions directly. As a result, when they make subject choices for the upcoming school year, they are fully informed.

These events are timed to give the students the best possible chance of information gathering and forming ideas about subject choices, prerequisites and career paths prior to the season of University open days in Semester 2. “Students have already had a think about it, they have had a chat to some universities, to some speakers, to people from different careers, and they have given some thought to what they might want to explore further,” explains Mrs Gilder.  

Empowering Students

For Mrs Gilder, it is important for students to be empowered about their subject selection choices. “It’s their journey,” she explains. “They are the ones that are going to follow on and study at university or choose an apprenticeship or traineeship. It’s their career and their life-long choice,” she says. While some parents make enquiries about subjects and prerequisites, the School holds a series of comprehensive Information Nights for parents during Term 3. “Hopefully,” says Mrs Gilder, “there have been conversations at home about career paths and subject choices, so during those sessions we can focus on how VCE works, and topics about prerequisites and about ATAR scaling.”

One of the topics discussed at the VCE Information Night is how important it is that students choose subjects that they enjoy, rather than focus on a high ATAR result. “All the research shows that students are going to do better, and achieve better results at things they are passionate about, and that they enjoy,” explains Mrs Gilder.

There are exemptions. For example, if a student wanted to study nutrition, but was not strong in science, they will need to study a science, such as chemistry, for that particular course. “It may or may not be a prerequisite,” says Mrs Gilder, “but you may be studying it at university and you’ll need those skills. You have to think long and hard if you want to study that course or alternatively, look at a similar career path that may not have such an emphasis on science.”


There are also many informal opportunities for students to explore and discuss career paths. “Mentoring happens in a range of ways,” explains Mrs Gilder. “We’ve got fascinating people here with a whole range of experience and expertise. In addition to developing close ties with their tutors, students often develop fantastic connections with a sports coach or their history teacher.” Plans are also in place to solidify mentoring opportunities between current students and the Alumni community with the rollout of an online platform for Ivanhoe Girls’ alumni later in the year.

As both Head of Careers and Year Level Coordinator, Mrs Gilder is on the front line for mentoring students. She has developed strong connections with students, and enjoyed lots of informal contact with the students as classroom teacher, tutor and Year Level Coordinator. Mrs Gilder meets with each Year 12 student for at least 30 minutes in Term 3 to talk about their options. “But many will come and see me beforehand,” she says. She also meets with the Year 10s in Term 2 to talk about work experience and subject choices. “But the students know that they can come and see me anytime. It’s really important as a careers practitioner that students know you are approachable.”

Pastoral Care Framework

Careers counselling at Ivanhoe Girls’ is part of a year by year approach to Pastoral Care and Personal Development.

  • By Year 9, with students starting to think about part time jobs, they have the opportunity to develop a personal brand, learn how to write resumes and cover letters and practice interview techniques
  • In Year 10, students have the opportunity to undergo the Morrisby Report testing, which reveals correlations between their academic character strengths, plus their fields of interest, and offers suggestions of suitable occupations. In addition, students undertake Work Experience, visit Universities and meet with Mrs Gilder for one-on-one interviews
  • By Year 11 there are information sessions about VTAC and career presentations, as well as careers testing
  • Finally, by Year 12 there is a comprehensive range of open days and presentations by universities, employers and industry groups. After VTAC applications are submitted there are one-on-one interviews with Mrs Gilder, and information sessions for parents.
Future Proofing

Mrs Gilder is aware that much of the language around careers is changing due to the uncertainties about the future of work. “A lot of schools today use 'pathways' not “careers”. We don’t know what careers there will be in the future,” she explains.

“Something Ivanhoe Girls’ does really well is empowering students to be independent. They’re developing entrepreneurship skills and creative thinking,” she says. “We’re doing that though our Year 9 Program TREK. Having students think creatively, work through problems, work in teams, work individually…these are all foundation skills for young Australians.”

“These sorts of skills will take you on to wherever you want to go,” says Mrs Gilder.